Media Standards Trust fully supports calls for independent judicial inquiry into phone-hacking allegations

The Media Standards Trust today, Friday 3rd September, gives its full support to calls for a judicial inquiry into the allegations of phone-hacking at the News of the World.

Tom Watson MP, a member of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, yesterday wrote to Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. Mr Watson argued that the allegations published by the New York Times – that ‘one of the country’s most powerful newspapers was routinely listening in on its citizens’ contrary to evidence given to the CMS select committee by Andy Coulson and Les Hinton, and that the police colluded with News International – constitute ‘clear grounds for a judicial enquiry’. The MST wholeheartedly agrees.

Mr Watson also calls for the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate the ‘serious allegation’ of collusion. The MST agrees.

In July 2009, the MST called for the press to take the initiative and ‘appoint a genuinely independent figure with wide-ranging powers, to conduct a lengthy and detailed investigation’. This was in response to the revelation, published by The Guardian (8th July 2009), that ‘News Group News¬papers ha[d] paid out more than £1m to settle legal cases that threatened to reveal evidence of his journalists’ repeated involvement in the use of criminal methods to get stories’. An independent inquiry instigated by the press, we argued, ‘could prove to critics of the system of press self-regulation that it is – contrary to popular perception – able to hold the press to account’ and ‘could help to renew public confidence’. The call was not taken up.

We believe strongly in the principle of a self-regulated press, but given the new allegations made by the New York Times and the failure of the press to confront the issue of phone-hacking, we believe that only an independent judicial inquiry with full subpoena powers can now bring all the facts to light. Despite the excellent work of the select committee, and the sustained investigation by The Guardian, the full facts of the case remain unclear. Only an independent inquiry can expose the scale of the intrusion and indicate whether it is still going on, and – critically – restore public confidence in the press.

Sir David Bell, chair of the MST, said: “We believe strongly that it is critical for all the facts surrounding this issue to be made public. In view of what has happened we believe that a judicial inquiry must be the right way forward and that it should begin at once.”